Gamecocks MBB shock #9 Cyclones to Extend Winning Streak


Even though exams were done more than two weeks ago and classes aren’t currently in session, the Gamecocks MBB team had their toughest test of the non-conference season Saturday night.  Frank Martin took his squad to Brooklyn, NY to face the 9th ranked Iowa State Cyclones of the Big 12, in a neutral court match-up at the Barclays Center.  USC was able to grab control early, and make enough plays late to hold on and get a very tough win 64-60, the program’s first win over a top 10 team since upsetting number one Kentucky in 2010.

Unlike the upset win over UK, this one felt more like statement of intent for the program, not a surprise result unlikely to be duplicated.  South Carolina now enters SEC play flying high winning seven straight games, many of them by larger margins, but this one may be the most satisfactory.
The Gamecocks started fast in this game, jumping to an early 13-4 lead behind 9 quick points by senior point guard Tyrone Johnson.  Once again, Coach Martin’s team used stifling defense and aggressive play on the glass to build their lead, grabbing the first 8 rebounds of the game, and forcing bad shots and pressuring the Cyclones into mistakes.  While his teams are known for intense, in your face, man to man D, Martin was constantly switching between zone and man, while throwing in some full court pressure as well in the opening half.  The different looks offered up by Carolina on defense kept an explosive Iowa State team from finding any rhythm on offense, with most of their success coming form fast breaks and free throws.  

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After Johnson cooled from his hot start, sophomore and leading scorer Duane Notice carried the Gamecocks offense for the rest of the half, with 11 1st half points, 15 for the game.  USC was able to overcome some erratic ball handling and foul trouble, maintaining a lead throughout the entire opening stanza. Iowa State got their up-tempo game going to end the first half, and despite trailing by as much as 11 at one point, closed to within a single point at the break, 36-35.

The second half played out much the same as the first, with Carolina starting fast to extend their lead, again stifling the Big 12’s highest scoring team with a stingy defense.  They did not allow a point in the opening five minutes after the break. In the half court, the Cyclones found it hard to get good shots, not making their first 3 pointer until less than a minute remained in the game, and finishing 1-18 from beyond the arc.  A long and athletic team, they were able to hang around thanks to forcing 20 Gamecock turnovers, and converting in transition.  After an Iowa St run midway through the half, they were able to get there first lead at 48-47, then moments later took their largest and last lead of the night at 51-49.

At the moment all the momentum seemed in their favor, but the Gamecocks responded.  Sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell drove baseline, split two defenders and made a tough shot in the paint, also drawing a foul. Thornwell, who was looked at coming into the year as the team’s best player, has struggled shooting this season, but when his team needed a basket he came thru in a big way.  After forcing a bad shot on the other end, freshman Marcus Stroman hit Notice on the break for a lay-up, extending lead to 56-52.

With back to back poor possessions on offense, where they didn’t even get a shot attempt, the Gamecocks couldn’t quite put the game away.  That is when Thornwell stepped up again.  The 6’5″ guard from Lancaster, SC hit two lay-ups and two free throws plus added a steal in the last tow minutes of play to help seal the victory. He finished with 13 points for the game.

Afterwards, he was asked about his shooting struggles coming into the game, “Even though I’ve been having bad games, my teammates have been helping me and keeping me positive and motivated,” Thornwell said.  “It’s just practice.  I’ve been practicing well so I had the confidence to come in and do that.”

Having extended the win streak to seven, the Gamecocks also showed they can finish of a close game against a Top ranked team.  Add to that the fact that arguably their best player was able to build some positive momentum on the offense end of the floor, and the ceiling for this team keeps getting higher.

Extras: South Carolina is now 9-3, and starts SEC play Wednesday night at the Colonial Life Arena, hosting the Florida Gators.
Freshman Forward Shamiek Sheppard was looking to red-shirt this season after a summer knee injury.  However he has healed quicker than expected and has come in off the bench each of the last two games.  He is expected to add depth and athleticism to the front-court.
Sheppard, Ty Johnson, and Duane Notice are all from up north and had family attend the game.  Coach Martin stated that allowing Johnson, from New Jersey, to play at home was a big part of scheduling this game in Brooklyn.